|occhi_bella (occhi_bella) wrote in unknown_fandom,|
@ 2007-08-24 22:47:00
Aftermath - Chapter 3
story_arc Set: 15-03
story_arc Theme: Fever (10-1, #5)
Fandom: Sleepy Hollow (movie)
Character: Ichabod Crane
Warning: Non-explicit implications of rape and incest. Spoilers
Disclailmer: Sleepy Hollow and its characters do not belong to me. I make no money from this.
Link to Chapter 1
Summary: Ichabod departs for New York with Katrina and Young Masbath, but their journey is delayed by unexpected complications. Picks up at the part where the Hessian disappears into the Tree of the Dead for the last time with Lady Van Tassel.
“You’ll be needing to stay here again,” James McKinley stated in his distinct Irish brogue as he and Ichabod sat together drinking the coffee that Katrina had brewed. “The storm still hasn’t subsided.”
“I apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your hospitality,” Ichabod answered.
“How is your boy?”
“He has a fever. Where is the doctor in town?”
“His house is at the end of the road. If you would like I can bring him over here now.”
“Yes. I shall go with you.”
“That won’t be necessary, sir. Stay and look after your family.”
He stood up and grabbed his coat, then left the tavern. Katrina entered the room a few minutes later holding the same cup that she’d brought upstairs to Stephen’s room a few minutes before.
“Mr. McKinley has gone to fetch the doctor in town.”
“Good. His fever is not very high right now, but his chest is congested and he complained of a headache and sore throat. And…I am quite concerned about him. He said something odd to me when I was upstairs.” She took a seat at the table beside him, her face creased in a deep, worried frown. “What about tonight? Will there be a problem with lodging?”
“No, Mr. McKinley has already expressed his willingness to let us stay. What was the odd thing that Stephen said?”
“He asked me where the little girl in the house had gone.”
“Little girl?” Ichabod asked, his voice suddenly quivering inexplicably.
“Yes,” she continued. “I was very tired when we arrived last night, so I may have heard incorrectly, but I’m certain that Mr. McKinley said that there was no one living with him, either downstairs or upstairs, and that all the rooms on this floor and the third floor were locked.”
“That is what I heard too. But surely we would have seen a child about if…what else did Stephen say?”
“I asked him about her and he told me that she came into his room early this morning. Her name is Emily.”
“The tea I brewed for him took effect and he fell asleep before I could ask him about it further. Perhaps it was only a fever dream. But I keep thinking about what those women were saying.”
He immediately thought back on Katrina’s words the previous evening, that the townspeople believed there were ghosts in the house. Willfully dismissing the thought, he steadied himself. Despite his recent experience with the supernatural he refused to believe that it would be the explanation for everything that happened outside of the city. Men still behaved immorally without summoning a supernatural entity, or being enthrall to one. Stephen Masbath had a fever and was no doubt in the throes of a delirium during the night.
“A fever dream. That is the explanation, of course,” he responded quickly, his voice pitched higher than usual.
She regarded him with a knowing expression. “Let’s hope so. I am quite certain that you would not be happy to tangle with a ghost again.”
Katrina smiled and reached over, laying a cool, soothing palm against his cheek. Her touch was like magic, causing him to relax instantly and he reached up, covering her hand with his own and leaning into it with a sigh. After a few moments he lifted his head and clasped her hand, lowering it to the table.
“I am not ready to believe that there is a ghoul roaming this house, appearing to only Stephen. Anyway, I can only worry about him becoming well again.” His voice was steady now, his composure regained. “And I pray that we may leave this place sooner rather than later.”
Dr. Thompson was a grim-looking elderly gentleman with grey hair and dark brown eyes. Ichabod and Katrina waited in the doorway of the room while he sat in a chair beside the bed and tended to Stephen.
“The boy has an infection,” he told them gravely when he’d finished and they walked downstairs together. “I gave him a dose of laudanum. It will help him sleep and relieve the headache and sore throat.”
They sat at one of the tables in the tavern. The doctor withdrew a pen, ink and paper and began to write.
“I will leave some more laudanum with you, along with instructions for the dosage and frequency.”
He handed Katrina a small bottle of the tincture and the paper with instructions.
“Brew him more of your herbal tea as well, Madam. That will help the fever. And a cool cloth on his forehead. If his temperature rises, it may be necessary to immerse him in cool water. Cool, not cold. Cold water will send him into shock. And summon me immediately.”
“We will. Thank you very much, Dr. Thompson.”
“He reminds me of my father, except that he appears as grim as everyone else in this town,” Katrina commented softly after he had departed. “If it weren’t for his gloomy expression I think his visage would be very kind.”
Despite the inclement weather, the tavern was filled with townsfolk that evening, all of them drinking beer and debating in conspiratorial tones. After Ichabod and Katrina finished their supper, he had remained in the kitchen while she brought a bowl of soup upstairs to Stephen’s room, hoping that maybe he had regained his appetite. Although he had never intended to eavesdrop, he found himself unable to gracefully pass through that room now that the conversation was in full swing. Besides, he couldn’t help but be curious about why these people had seemed so guilty and fearful from the moment they arrived, and he could hear them clearly, though they interrupted each other constantly, leaving sentences that might have contained useful information unfinished, and Ichabod with more questions than answers.
“That Van Ripper fellow called him ‘Constable’. A constable! Come to investigate this town, no doubt.”
Ichabod sat very still.
“But if he was here to investigate this town, why would he have brought his wife and child with him?”
“To keep us off our guard and make us think they stopped here by accident.”
“How would he know to come here?”
“Someone here must have summoned him,” someone else chimed in accusatorially. “Who was it? Come, speak up.”
“But who would have summoned a constable from New York?”
“New York! How do you know he came from there? Maybe…”
“Look at the way he’s dressed, you dolt. Have you ever seen anyone wearing that sort of clothing? I haven’t, except for that pompous lawyer chap that Jenner hired from New York two years ago.”
“Shh, don’t speak of…”
“Listen, the blizzard was real. No one summoned that.” It was James McKinley speaking. “And his son is genuinely ill. Dr. Thompson was here looking him over earlier. So there’s no sense in accusing anyone over something that probably is a coincidence. What we need to worry about now is her.”
“There hasn’t been any sign of her since nearly a year ago…”
“The boy has seen her.”
“He spoke of it.”
A hush fell over the room like a blanket.
“If that man is a constable…maybe he can help with…”
“No!” Ichabod recognized the voice that accompanied the fist slamming the wooden table. It belonged to the old man who was sitting at the next table on the night of their arrival, demanding that they leave. “We do not need an outsider prying into our affairs…”
“Will you lower your voice, for God’s sake? He’s staying in this house. You’re so loud he can probably hear you from upstairs.”
“But, in New York there must be many crimes of all sorts. He might know…”
“It was you who summoned him, wasn’t it? With your knowledge of…”
“Obstinate and suspicious, that’s what you are.”
“Besides, what would he know about…?”
“Alright, alright. Fighting amongst ourselves will not accomplish anything.”
“If the boy has seen her, then…”
“He may not remember what he saw. And even if he does, it will likely be written off as a figment of his fevered imagination if he mentions it to anyone. Or a side effect of the laudanum.” That was the calm tone of Dr. Thompson.
Silence had fallen again and Ichabod discovered that he was holding his breath. He quietly removed a handkerchief from his pocket and slowly mopped his brow, which was covered in beads of sweat.
“I say we carry on as before,” Dr. Thompson continued. “The snowfall is lighter now, in a few days they will be able to travel again. They’ll be gone and we won’t have to worry about the constable.”
“You should never have let them come in here, Jamie.”
“What sort of man would I be to let a man and his family freeze to death? Especially a woman and child! Besides,” he lowered his voice an octave. “We are all guilty, every one of us. We knew…even before we were told, we knew. And we did nothing.”
“What’s done is done. We must move forward from where we are.”
“Very well,” the rude old man conceded. “But we will not be asking an outsider for help, no matter his profession.”
As their discussion shifted and peals of laughter began to punctuate the conversation, Ichabod stood up and silently went to the back door, stepping outside and closing it behind him. In order to get upstairs he would have to circle around the building and enter the front door as if he was just coming in.
Katrina’s frantic tone shattered his slumber and he woke with a start. She stood right beside the bed.
“W-what?” He blinked and focused on her, sitting up quickly the moment he beheld the anguished expression on her face. “What is it?”
“Stephen is gone! I went in to check on him and he’s gone from his bed!”
He was out of bed in a flash, dressing quickly. “He can’t have gone far. Maybe he’s wandering around the house. Have you looked for him downstairs?”
“Yes. And behind the house, and in the road. There’s no sign of him.”
Though he was on the verge of panicking, thinking on the conversation he’d overheard the previous evening, Ichabod forced himself to calm down. He needed to keep a clear head and follow a logical chain of reasoning. Besides, how far could the boy have gone in his condition? He had to be somewhere in the vicinity.
“I’ll check upstairs on the third floor. If we’re lucky maybe he’s up there. Please tell Mr. McKinley. It may be necessary to organize a team of men to look for him…if they’ll be willing to help us.”
The third floor hallway was empty, and they knew the rooms to be locked. Ichabod hurried downstairs to the first floor where James McKinley was hurriedly pulling on his boots.
“Mrs. Crane told me that the boy is missing. I’ll ask around. Maybe someone has seen him this morning.”
Ichabod followed him out and peered up and down the main road. The storm had finally subsided, and though flurries continued to fall lightly, footsteps in the snow were visible. It would be a little while before the falling snowflakes covered them up. He spied the set of smaller prints, prints that looked to be about Stephen’s size, leading from the door to the road and began to follow them.
Katrina came hurrying after him, wrapped in a heavy cloak.
“I’m going with you.”
He placed his hands on her shoulders and leaned down to kiss her tenderly. “He may return home on his own. Someone should be waiting here for him if he does.”
She appeared to be on the verge of protesting, but she conceded with a resigned sigh. “You’re right. I’ll wait downstairs for him.”
Several sets of prints overlapped as he moved further along the road but he kept his eye on the smaller prints, following them to the edge of town. Ichabod stopped, frowning, and gazed off toward the horizon. Despite the blizzard having dissipated, a fog still hovered over the landscape, making it impossible to see very far into the distance.
Observing that only a single set of tracks continued in this direction, he breathed a sigh of relief. If these footsteps did indeed belong to Stephen, he was alone. No one appeared to have apprehended him.
He continued on out of town, following the small tracks for a few furlongs and finally arriving at a remote cemetery. A shiver ran up his spine as he beheld it and he had to physically shake off the eerie feeling. He was about to continue to follow the footprints that marked the child’s path through the cemetery when he caught sight of a figure at the far end of the graveyard, sprawled on the ground.
“Oh, my God!” Ichabod cried out breathlessly and moved toward the boy as fast as he could without slipping.
Stephen Masbath lay on the ground in front of a large tombstone at the far end of the cemetery. He wore no coat, the thin layer of clothes on his body were damp and he was shivering convulsively.
“Stephen!” He knelt beside him and slipped his arms around him, pulling him up to sitting. “Oh, God, Stephen, what are you doing here?”
The boy’s eyes were half-open and he mumbled incoherently. Ichabod unbuttoned his coat then stood up, lifting Stephen with him and drawing him against his chest. He closed his coat around both of them, hoping to warm him up with his body heat.
Ichabod looked up, stunned to see James McKinley and a few other men from the village approaching the entrance to the cemetery. They hurried toward him.
“Mrs. Greeley saw someone walking this way early this morning. It was too foggy for her to see who it was. But when she heard that we were looking for your boy, she thought it might have been him that she saw.”
One of the other men approached and handed him a large thick blanket.
“Thank you.” He wrapped the blanket around Stephen then scooped him up to carry him back to McKinley’s tavern.
Katrina ran off to fetch Dr. Thompson as soon as they arrived home. She had already seen to starting a fire burning in the hearth in Stephen’s room and Ichabod immediately brought him up there. He was shivering uncontrollably and his teeth chattered, but his eyes were open fully and he was awake now. After stripping the wet clothing off of him, Ichabod unbuttoned his own shirt and held him against his bare chest, wrapping several layers of blankets around them both and attempting once again to warm him with his body heat. They sat this way by the fire until Stephen’s shivering finally subsided, then Ichabod carried him to the bed and set him down.
“Stephen,” he urged quietly, sitting on the edge of the bed beside him. “What on earth possessed you to run about out in this weather? And why did you go to the cemetery of all places?”
“I don’t remember going there, sir.”
“You remember nothing at all?”
“Only lying in bed and feeling so hot. I couldn’t bear it anymore, I had to do something to cool down.”
“Well, now you’re quite frozen,” he sighed.
Stephen looked frightened as he gazed up at him through red, glassy eyes and Ichabod patted his shoulder reassuringly.
“It will be alright. You’re going to be alright. Get some rest now.”
“What about Emily?” he asked suddenly.
“I remember now that she was with me. Did you find her?”
“No,” Ichabod replied, attempting in vain to keep the tremor from his voice. “You were alone when I arrived at the cemetery.”
As Stephen closed his eyes and eventually settled into slumber, Ichabod remained beside him, brooding apprehensively about the boy’s inexplicable behavior. It pointed to a serious illness.